Although it might be easy to compare director Lasse Hallstrom’s work on Chocolat and his latest, The Hundred-Foot Journey, the director admits that they only share one trait -- and it’s not food or the French locale.
“What they have in common is the interest of character, and where character can take a story,” Hallstrom told Movie Fanatic recently.
“I think they have that in common. I’m interested in relations and characters, so that’s really the driving force in all my choices. The fact that they were so similar -- they’re almost siblings, these films -- it’s more coincidence I would say.”
He did take pause though before accepting the gig of directing The Hundred-Foot Journey. “I thought, 'Hmmm, this is too close to Chocolat.' I certainly felt that I knew how to do this, but it also gave opportunity to improvise and play around and have fun with it, so it’s all about the details for me. And both these scripts had that ability for the actors to play around with small observations of human behavior,” he admitted.
Hallstrom avoided pitfalls that would force comparisons in how he shot it. “Stylistically, I didn’t want to do the montage-y feeling of Chocolat. So we did it in longer takes. The montage when they move in (in The Hundred-Foot Journey) felt very similar to the montage in Chocolat. So I felt I had to do this in one take,” Hallstrom said. “I tried to be different.”
There is also something done in his latest film, teased in The Hundred-Foot Journey trailer that will make you crave all kinds of fine foods!
“I don’t think it’s about the close-ups of the food, I think it’s about the sensuality of the performances. It’s not about the shots of food because they’re pretty ordinary to me,” he said and laughed. “We made a rule of not showing people enjoying eating the food and all that stuff.”
The story of The Hundred-Foot Journey follows a woman (Helen Mirren) who runs an award-winning French restaurant in the south of France who feels threatened when an Indian family moves across the street and opens a restaurant serving their home country’s most popular dishes. These mixes of cultures are also what drew Hallstrom to the project.
“Trying to merge cultures and make them unite, without losing the culture or individual culture quality, I think it’s important. And going into it, it felt like a great message that we should all hold hands and know that we have so much in common, even if we have cultural differences,” Hallstrom said.
“There’s so much more we have in common than we realize. And knowing that going in, it was a life-affirming message.”
And it wasn’t just the food that mixed cultures in The Hundred-Foot Journey, but the score as well. There’s French music, Indian music and an orchestral score that integrates the two. It’s a smorgasbord for the ears.
“Another attraction with this story was that I could play around with merging the sounds, the languages. There’s a lot of different languages that are not translated, so it’s another spice, another color of the film that I appreciated,” Hallstrom said.
“Music could underscore the differences in the culture and the similarities, so we played around a lot with that. I sat with A.R. Rahman (Slumdog Millionaire) in Los Angeles and worked out the score together. I got an opportunity to sit in his laboratory there and see him come up with ideas. That was a fantastic part of making this film, that he invited me to the creative process.”
Check out Hallstrom's recent work, talked about above, and watch Chocolat online.